Power failure | Philstar.com
It is as if Nero was fiddling around while Rome was on fire. The energy secretary was in Cebu playing politics while the Luzon grid suffered from blackouts.
Ensuring the stability of the power supply is the primary responsibility of the Energy Secretary. And he failed. Worst of all, the problem could have been predicted if the DOE was doing its job.
Due to the negligence of the DOE, it took people by surprise. The inconvenience of a power outage during one of the hottest summers we have experienced made many angry with the Duterte administration.
Here’s how my friend, Lito Madrasto, puts it in his Facebook post:
“Recurring drops in tension in the RCN +? What is happening? The demand for electricity at the moment is dropping! Schools are closed! The cinemas are closed! Most of the offices are closed! Most stores in malls are still closed! The majority of stations are still closed!
“The restaurants are partially open! Even churches, mosques and other places of worship are partially open! Only the hospitals are full! Only bourgeois and bourgeois homes use air conditioners!
“So why is there a shortage of electricity?
“What is happening?”
People working from home have had a very unproductive day. Many are now called upon to work in their offices because they have generators there. It doesn’t matter if they are at risk of catching COVID through central air conditioning systems that have not yet been redeveloped to deal with the aerosol infection of the virus.
In a recent Congressional Joint Energy Committee hearing, lawmakers repeatedly asked DOE officials if there would be brownouts or blackouts in June.
“Sa ngayon po wala tayong nakikitang at high risk of shortage,” said Secretary Alfonso Cusi.
Mario Marasigan, director of the DOE’s Electric Power Industry Management Office, said Luzon is not expected to reach peak demand of 11,841 megawatts. But he did not plan for forced shutdowns of the power plants.
Senator Win Gatchalian complained in a tweet: “The committee has been assured by the DOE that no voltage drop will occur as the country is in a delicate phase of its vaccine deployment. They should explain why their projections are wrong! They are the only body responsible for ensuring the public has a constant flow of electricity into homes. “
The NGCP implemented a rotating power interruption or manual load drop (MLD) – the standard procedure during a red alert – starting at 1:11 p.m. last Monday. Supply was uncertain all week and will be next. Three large power plants are offline, which contributes to the tight supply.
Sources in the energy sector blame NGCP for the problem. They claim that NGCP is not buying enough electricity for the auxiliary power supply. NGCP’s total contingency reserve supply was approximately 50 percent less than required.
On April 24, the energy department issued a statement recalling that for two years, it has reminded the NGCP of its obligation to provide sufficient levels of auxiliary services (AS) or power reserves, as provided for in a departmental circular. .
The DOE complained that “the NGCP is consistent in not complying with its liability with the firm contract requirement. The NGCP is dragging its feet in seeking insufficient capacity and even opting for an unreliable contract of “loose” AS Supply Agreements (ASPA), ”Secretary Cusi said.
Thus, the DOE ordered NGCP to renegotiate its existing non-firm contracts and comply with the 100 percent firm SA requirement. But as of December 2020, NGCP’s contracted enterprise level was still far below the mandated requirement approved by the Energy Regulatory Commission.
It seems that by ignoring the DOE’s order, NGCP is sacrificing network stability for greater profits. It doesn’t matter that the business is already so profitable that it practically prints money.
But why is the DOE treading on eggshells and unable to enforce its orders? Are they afraid of displeasing the Chinese minority shareholders of NGCP?
It gives a new meaning to the blackout: not to use the power of government in the public interest. Why?
There is another problem that needs to be resolved. Many of our large base power plants are about 30 years old. These were built in response to the electricity crisis during the last years of the Cory administration.
A lot of those old factories are also not being maintained as well as they should be. Perhaps it is a matter of a lack of incentives to spend on aging factories. This results in forced outages and extended outages. One of the coal-fired power stations in Sual is a good example.
With a balance of supply and demand at critical levels, we should build new factories. Or how can we meet the demands of a tiger economy that we hope will emerge from the ashes of this pandemic?
As it stands, the strict price caps on the primary and secondary markets distort the market and discourage investments in peak distributable capacity. In other countries, market price caps are much higher, giving real price signals for new investments.
Industry sources also tell me that there should be a prioritization of ancillary reserves for grid stability. If the needs of the AS are fully met, the true condition of demand / supply margin is visible in advance and investments will follow.
“New investments are slow because you are beholden to the demands of the utility and the energy commission. Accelerating an energy futures market can help build confidence for new investments.
“Put simply… government controls a little, ERC delays, government does not implement reserve requirements… The usual…”
Of course, there are a lot of things we want to do about our power supply. We want to have more renewable sources. We want competitive electricity pricing to make our industry competitive regionally. We want to protect the ordinary consumer.
But the big elephant in the room is: what energy capacity do we need for the next 20 to 30 years and how will we be able to make that capacity available?
Considering the time it takes to build a power plant, it will be too late to do anything soon enough. And we are going through a new energy crisis, again jeopardizing economic growth. We cannot be that stupid. Where are we?
Boo Chanco’s email address is [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @boochanco